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Kyrgyz Report: February 5, 2000

5 February 2000

Mission of the American non-governmental National Democratic Institute for International Affairs issued in Bishkek on 4 February a 10-page report on the pre-election situation in Kyrgystan. According to the report, "Kyrgyzstan has had significant success in the democratization process since 1991 ... However, actions of the three power branches taken recently have undermined the fairness and openness of the election process ... If the Kyrgyz government does not resolve the problems, the parliamentary elections on 20 February will not correspond to minimal international standards of democratic elections."

"... In some degree, the election on 20 February will be an alternative one. The 15 political parties ... will contend for 15 seats in the Legislative Assembly ... A possibility to give 15 seats in parliament for election on a proportional system should have helped to strengthen the political parties. However, a number of actions by the government, the parliament and the courts have led to a restriction of free competition and the violation of both the spirit and letter of the law and the guarantee of democratic elections..."

According to the report, the Justice Ministry did not allowed the four popular parties to take part in the elections, and the courts upheld these decisions in spite of the fact that the Constitution and the Law on Political Parties place no restriction on political parties. In addition, 8 political parties cannot run their members for parliament due to late registration. "... Just on the eve of election campaign, two lawsuits were begun against the two members of parliament who are also candidates to the new parliament. They both had to go to the hospital not to be arrested... These kinds of actions give reason to believe that the government wants to restrict competition."

"The three political parties, which were allowed to take part in the election first, are now under investigation ... Using of the trials for political aims, the refusal ti give candidates all possibilities to compete ... and depriving them the right to work as deputies in case of victory, and possible imprisonment represent denial of the supremacy of law and the democratic nature of elections."

"However, these problems could be resolved in the time left till the election if the Government observes the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan, spirit of the new law on elections, international norms and standards" says the report.

A 5-member mission arrived in Bishkek on 27 January to monitor the parliamentary elections. Its head is Patrick Marlow, director of the NDI program of the Elections. The NDI office in Bishkek was opened in 1996.

A trial against the Party of Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan (PDMK) began in the Pervomai district court of Bishkek on 4 February. Plaintiffs are Kazat Akamatov, prominent Kyrgyz writer; and Joomart Kadyraliev, prominent Kyrgyz painter. They have accused the party and its Chairman Jypar Jeksheev of ignoring them and not inviting them to the last congress of the party. They ask the court to find the congress and decisions taken as illegal.

About 50 people picketed the building of the court on 4 February demanding a stop to the persecution of the opposition.

According to Jeksheev, neither Akmatov nor KadyrAliyev have been registered members of the PDMK since 1993. However, if they consider themselves members of the party, they should have come to the congress themselves, because invitations to the congress were published in papers. The last congress of the PDMK was held in Bishkek on 18 December, 22 December and 5 January. It was decided at the congress to co-opt the other prominent opposition politician, Felix Kulov, into the party list to run for parliament on a proportional system. Kulov occupied first place in the PDMK party list, followed by Jeksheev.

An official of the Ar-Namys Party told RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 4 Febryar that party chairman Felix Kulov is in Moscow now meeting Russian governmental officials and State Duma members. He has been invited by the Unity and the Fatherland - Entire Russia movements of Russia.

Kulov is a very popular politician in Kyrgyzstan. He was vice president of the country early in the 1990�� then he served as governor of a province and minister of national security. They call him "a people's general" in Kyrgyzstan. Most recently, Kulov was mayor of Bishkek and resigned last April accusing President Askar Akayev of undemocratic rule. He formed his own party, the Ar-Namys, and registered it with the Justice Ministry last August. It is the third largest party in the country now but it was not allowed to take part in the election.

Statements by representatives of several ecological and human rights organizations were released in Bishkek on 4 February. They call for an independent audit of the Canadian Kumtor Operating Company's (KOC) development of the Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan. They also call upon the World Bank's International Fianancial Corporation and the Canadian Cameco Corporation, owner of the KOC, to release a emergency response plan for the mine. According to them, the three chemical spills that happened at Kumtor in less than a two-year period is dangerous for the ecology of Kyrgyzstan.

A round table discussion "Media and Image of Kyrgyzstan" was held in Bishkek on 4 February. Prominent writer and diplomat Tchingiz Aitmatov, presidential press secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov, chairman of the Union of Journalists Jumakadyr Sultanbaev, journalists and representatives of foreign organizations took part.

Aitmatov told the meeting that Kyrgyzstan has a strong positive image abroad because there is neither war nor religious extremism in the country. OSCE representative Mikhail Mgevadze said that President Askar Akayev has made a significant contribution to the positive image of Kyrgyzstan. Akayev is very popular in the West. However, according to Mgevadze, there are some unresolved problems in press freedom, and the Kyrgyz media is under governmental pressure.

Presidential press secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov expressed an opinion that both President Akayev's activities and the presence of a political opposition and press freedom are the main reasons for Kyrgyzstan's positive image. Chairwoman of the Kyrgyz Glasnost Defense Foundation Rina Prijivoit raised an objection against him saying there are few reasons to for self appraisal. According to her, the government must improve the economic and social situation in the country first of all to form a ground for any positive image.

The Coalition of NGOs For Democracy and Civil Society addressed the participants saying that the Kyrgyz media cannot use all the rights guaranteed them by the constitution, and the role of the media in Kyrgyz society is very low now. The professional level of Kyrgyz journalists is much lower than of their Russian colleagues, not speaking of western journalists. There are a few independent media organizations in Kyrgyzstan, and it is not possible to talk abuto democracy without independent media and press freedom.

The press service for the Foreign Ministry announced that a four-member delegation of the US State Department visited Kyrgyzstan on 3 February. They met with Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev and Secretary of the Security Council Bolot Januzakov in Bishkek that same day. Bilateral relations between the US and Kyrgyzstan, security problems of the Central Asian region, preparations for the forthcoming parliamentary elections were discussed during the meeting. US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Ann Sigmund also attended the meeting.

According to the governmental press service, a Kyrgyz delegation led by Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev will take part in the third meeting of the Kyrgyz-Japanese inter-government commission to be held in Tokyo on 6 - 9 February. Cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Japan in economics, trade, and technologies will be discussed. According to the press service, the Kyrgyz side will ask Japan to make more investments in the Kyrgyz economy. Also, Japanese will help complete the reconstruction of the Bishkek-Osh highway and the Manas airport in Bishkek as well as the construction of the Bishkek-Kemin electrical power line.

A trial against Member of Parliament Marat Kalmurzaev began in the Suzak district court of Jalal-Abad province on 2 February. He is accused of embezzlement and forgery, According to prosecutors, he took $1 million from an Italian company and $75,000 from a German firm and sent them cotton from the state reserves.

Kalmurzaev was detained on 22 June 1999 and has been in custody since. According to amendments to the Kyrgyz constitution, approved by the public referendum on 17 October 1998, members of parliament have immunity during parliamentary sessions only.

A new international information center was opened today at the Slavic (Kyrgyz-Russian) University in Bishkek. It will serve representatives of all international organizations in Kyrgyzstan as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations of the country. 21-million-dollar help from the UNHCR has been used for founding the center.

The Center for Employment announced in Bishkek on 2 Febryary that there are now 62,000 officially registered as unemployed in the country. 6,000 of them took part in courses on retraining last year, but only about half of retrained people have found jobs. Also, only 10 percent of registered unemployed received in 1999 unemployment allowances. Rate of the allowance is now 250 soms per month (about $5.5) against 150 soms in 1999.

Also, according to the Center, about 3,000 unemployed gather every morning along the Molodaya Gvardia Boulevard in Bishkek seeking a job and even some governmental companies use them with the aim of evading taxes. People call the boulevard a slave market.

Department head of the Batken district administration Maksat Mergenov told RFE/RL correspondent on 2 February that the district is ready to turn back any invaders in the spring. According to him, border guard units in the villages of Zardaly and Kojo-Ashkan are training now very intensively. However, the district has not received a single som of the promised 65-million-som help from the government to strengthen security system in the region.

Several hundred rebels invaded of Kyrgyzstan last August, taking about 25 hostages. The crisis lasted about 2 months and 27 Kyrgyz citizens were killed during it. It is expected that the rebels will return from neighboring Tajikistan in the spring and the special military exercises will be held on Tajik territory in March. Troops from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will take part in the exercises.